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How ginger, grapefruit aid medical drug delivery

Edible ginger-derived nano-lipids created from a specific population of ginger nanoparticles show promise for effectively targeting and delivering chemotherapeutic drugs used to treat colon cancer, according to a study by researchers at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Wenzhou Medical University, United States (U.S.) and Southwest University in China.

Also, researchers have uncovered how to create nanoparticles using natural lipids derived from grapefruit, and have discovered how to use them as drug delivery vehicles.

University of Louisville (UofL), US, researchers have uncovered how to create nanoparticles using natural lipids derived from grapefruit, and have discovered how to use them as drug delivery vehicles. UofL scientists Dr. Huang-Ge Zhang, Dr. Qilong Wang, and their team, published their findings in Nature Communications.

Meanwhile, the incidence of colorectal cancer has increased over the last few years, with about one million new cases diagnosed annually. Non-targeted chemotherapy is the most common therapeutic strategy available for colon cancer patients, but this treatment method is unable to distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells, leading to poor therapeutic effects on tumor cells and severe toxic side effects on healthy cells. Enabling chemotherapeutic drugs to target cancer cells would be a major development in the treatment of colon cancer.

In this study, the researchers isolated a specific nanoparticle population from edible ginger (GDNP 2) and reassembled their lipids, naturally occurring molecules that include fats, to form ginger-derived nano-lipids, also known as nanovectors. To achieve accurate targeting of tumor tissues, the researchers modified the nanovectors with folic acid to create FA-modified nanovectors (FA nanovectors). Folic acid shows high-affinity binding to the folate receptors that are highly expressed on many tumors and almost undetectable on non-tumor cells.

The FA nanovectors were tested as a delivery platform for doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic drug used to treat colon cancer. The researchers found that doxorubicin was efficiently loaded into the FA nanovectors, and the FA nanovectors were efficiently taken up by colon cancer cells, exhibited excellent biocompatibility and successfully inhibited tumor growth. Compared to a commercially available option for delivering doxorubicin, the FA nanovectors released the drug more rapidly in an acidic pH that resembled the tumor environment, suggesting this delivery strategy could decrease the severe side effects of doxorubicin. These findings were published in the journal Molecular Therapy.

“Our results show that FA nanovectors made of edible ginger-derived lipids could shift the current paradigm of drug delivery away from artificially synthesized nanoparticles toward the use of nature-derived nanovectors from edible plants,” said Dr. Didier Merlin, a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State and a Research Career Scientist at the VA Medical Center. “Because they are nontoxic and can be produced on a large scale, FA nanovectors derived from edible plants could represent one of the safest targeted therapeutic delivery platforms.”

Grapefruits have long been known for their health benefits, and the subtropical fruit may revolutionize how medical therapies like anti-cancer drugs are delivered to specific tumor cells.

“These nanoparticles, which we’ve named grapefruit-derived nanovectors (GNVs), are derived from an edible plant, and we believe they are less toxic for patients, result in less biohazardous waste for the environment, and are much cheaper to produce at large scale than nanoparticles made from synthetic materials,” Zhang said.

The researchers demonstrated that GNVs can transport various therapeutic agents, including anticancer drugs, DNA/RNA and proteins such as antibodies. Treatment of animals with GNVs seemed to cause less adverse effects than treatment with drugs encapsulated in synthetic lipids.

“Our GNVs can be modified to target specific cells — we can use them like missiles to carry a variety of therapeutic agents for the purpose of destroying diseased cells,” he said.

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